NORTH ROYALTON — Avon Lake learned some remedial multiplication in its first-round playoff game Friday night against Highland.
It was a simple equation: 4 x 0 = 8-3.
Four trips into the red zone.
A season-ending record of 8-3 for the Shoremen after a 28-21 loss to Highland at North Royalton High School.
Avon Lake missed a field goal in the first quarter, was stopped on fourth-and-2 in the second, then turned the ball over inside the Highland 20-yard line twice in the third.
The Shoremen’s only red zone conversion came after holding the Hornets on fourth down in their own territory early in the first quarter. That’s when, after a 33-yard David Winkel run, junior quarterback Jeremiah Campo crashed in from a yard out.
“Our red zone defense was very good,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said after his team improved to 11-0. “You have to give credit to our kids. … They’ve been resilient all year long. We’ve put them in some tough situations. We know playoff games are going to be like this. As I told our kids, these are all good teams and there are going to be battles like this. We have to player better than we did, but give credit to Avon Lake … they’re a very good, physical football team.”
Highland tied the game with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter when senior quarterback Bruce Kinsey threw a perfect pass to Cory Moncol on fourth-and-6 from the Avon Lake 26. Moncol juggled the ball, but gained control as he slipped inside the left pylon.
The defenses both tightened and it wasn’t until 1:16 remained in the half that either team scored again. Highland broke the tie when Alex Harris capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard plunge.
That’s when the Shoremen broke down.
Avon Lake got the ball back with 1:12 remaining in the second. After Nick Corvo sacked Campo on first down, Ohm got 5 back on second. Highland called its second timeout of the half to stop the clock. Avon Lake was hit with a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty, then Campo rushed for 4 yards to the Avon Lake 25.
Highland called its last timeout to stop the clock and set up a punt block. Senior Myles Houska crashed through the middle and got a hand on the ball, knocking it back toward the Avon Lake goal line, where Johnny Zaz fell on it at the 5.
Kinsey then found his younger brother, Coltin Kinsey, wide open in the back of the end zone to give the Hornets a 21-7 lead heading into the half.
“That was a game-changer,” Avon Lake coach Larry Laird said. “It was a big game-changer. Against a good football team like that you can’t do things like that. They don’t make mistakes, and, at inopportune times, we made mistakes.”
Avon Lake made it interesting in the third. On its second possession, Campo took off around the right side and ran 64 yards untouched to pull the Shoremen within a score at 21-14 with 5:41 remaining in the period.
On the next Highland possession, Kyle Kuhar intercepted a screen pass to give the Shoremen the ball back at the Hornets 41.
Campo picked up 19 yards on two carries, but with 4:00 showing on the clock, Ohm and Campo failed to convert a clean handoff and the ball fell to the turf, where Zaz jumped on it for Highland.
The Hornets went three-and-out, and a poor punt gave Avon Lake the ball at the Highland 46. This time Campo was unable to hook up with Winkel on a swing pass to the right flat when Collin Paich stepped in front of the pass, picked it off and returned it all the way to the Shoremen 30.
“They had just fumbled the handoff, then the interception was really big,” Lombardo said. “It tilted the field even though we didn’t convert. It tilted the field and gave us some momentum.”
Harris’ second touchdown of the game, a 5-yard dive, seemed to put the game away as Highland led 28-14 with 7:22 remaining in the fourth. However, with less than two minutes left, Campo tossed a floating pass to Winkel, who got behind the Hornets’ defense. He made a juggling catch at his own 40 and sprinted 60 yards to the end zone to pull Avon Lake within 28-21.
Harris, however, jumped on the ensuing onside kick for Highland to seal the win.
Laird was disappointed with his team’s missed opportunities.
“We didn’t execute when we had to execute,” he said. “Highland is a very good football team and you have to take advantage. I don’t want to take anything away from Highland, but we had our chances. What decided the game was not punching it in on those two drives in the second quarter. At worst we should have been up 21-14 at half.
“That was the story of the game. We were playing from behind. Our kids executed and we game-planned very well. You’ve got to put it in when you get the opportunities.”
Despite the loss, Campo, who was making his first career varsity start at quarterback, thinks the Shoremen have big things ahead of them.
“We’re going to come back strong again for sure,” he said. “I love Coach Laird, he’s doing a great job.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Highland 28, Avon Lake 21
Avon Lake 7 0 7 7 — 21
Highland 7 14 0 7 — 28
AL — Jeremiah Campo, 1 run (Alex Voloshen kick)
H — Cory Moncol, 26 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Luke Allen kick)
H — Alex Harris, 2 run (Allen kick)
H — Coltin Kinsey, 5 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Allen kick)
AL — Campo, 64 run (Voloshen kick)
H — Harris, 5 run (Allen kick)
AL –- David Winkel, 80 pass from Campo (Voloshen kick)
First downs 15 12
— by rushing 8 9
— by passing 5 3
— by penalty 2 0
Yards rushing 248 225
Yards passing 126 81
Total offense 374 306
Passes att./comp. 16/6 22/8
Intercepted by 1 1
Fumbles/lost 2/1 1/1
Penalties/yards 5/25 7/52
RUSHING — (AL) Jeremiah Campo 18-135, David Winkel 4-77, Wyatt Ohm 14-32, Collin Lucas 2-6. (H) Bruce Kinsey 23-158, Alex Harris 16-61, Nick Corvo 2-6.
PASSING — (AL) Campo 6-14-126-1-1, Winkel 0-2-0-0-0. (H) Bruce Kinsey 8-21-81-2-1, Collin Paich 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — (AL) Winkel 4-117, Max Seipel 1-3, Jace Russell 1-6. (H) Coltin Kinsey 5-28, Cory Moncol 3-54.